'Movies' sim a fast-growing Web phenomenon

Forget Final Cut: Moviemaking is now as easy as playing a videogame.

Activision’s “The Movies” is being sold as a “sim” — or simulation game — where players run a Hollywood studio.

Within the game, however, players get to use their studio to make films.

Rather than create each character and action themselves, users can pick from thousands of pre-made looks, costumes, sets, and actions (“man kisses woman,” “man draws gun,” etc.)

In practice, that makes “The Movies” the cheapest and simplest animation tool on the market.

It’s that ability that has turned the game into a growing phenomenon on the Web.

Players are posting their own films on a community site run by the game’s producers, U.K. developer Lionhead Studios (movies.lionhead.com).

Site has already posted tens of thousands of submissions and is currently getting one new one every minute.

From there, some of the most popular films spread across blogs, where they can quickly draw tens or hundreds of thousands of eyeballs around the world.

Among the most popular: serious comments on the riots in France and the death penalty; a small-scale remake of “King Kong”; and a comedic musical homage to beer.

Of course, crude, jerky animations don’t compare in quality to most shorts made for the Web, let alone actual films.

But the game’s maker says that’s a small tradeoff for what may just be the most democratic filmmaking tool yet.

“Most people think they can’t create, and their fear is being presented with a blank sheet,” says Lionhead topper Peter Molyneux. “My absolute dream is that somebody could start telling their stories with this game and one day go on to make an actual movie in Hollywood.”

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